Oakland murder rate on the rise

By Paul Glader The Associated Press
Tuesday May 07, 2002

OAKLAND, Calif. — City leaders are looking for solutions after a rash of unrelated weekend slayings left six young black men dead. 

“There are far too many African American men being killed in our city,” said city manager Robert Bob, who added Monday that the city’s black community should take more responsibility. “Our enemy is inside us. It’s not the KKK of years past. It’s in us and we have to rise up and take charge of our destiny.” 

Bob said homicide detectives heard residents laughing and partying across the street from the scene of one of the slayings Saturday, where 18-year-old Lamar Brown was killed and two others were seriously wounded. 

That brings the number of homicides this year to 37, which is 12 more than at the same time last year. The city is on pace to have more than 100 homicides this year, up from about 87 homicides last year. The city had 175 homicides in 1992. 

The increase threatens to mar the city’s 150th anniversary and to reverse Mayor Jerry Brown’s four years of crime reduction in the city once known as a West Coast capital of drugs and murder. 

“It’s our goal and the mayor’s goal and the city manager’s goal to see that cut by 50 percent,” said Police Chief Richard Word. 

To combat the rising homicide rates, Word said police would begin stepping up patrols in West Oakland, where at least one of the weekend shootings happened. He also asked for help from community organizations. 

“We are not reaching the young men in high-risk situations,” he said. 

Police had made no arrests in any of the cases by noon Monday. Word said five of the six homicides were drug related, and three of the six victims were on probation. 

“That’s a bug in my side,” Word said, noting that about 7,000 probationers are on the street unsupervised. 

Word said drugs are connected to about 80 percent of crimes in the city and have been a clear trend in this spring’s homicides. He notes stronger drug enforcement by police sometimes make competition and tensions higher among drug dealers and users. 

“We are seeing a lot of robberies of drug users or dealers that are going unreported,” Word said. “Then we are seeing retaliation.”